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That Smile by P.J.
Something a bit different from the usual here guys. Would like honest comments.
Frank was just beginning to slide the hungry Osters into the thick line of chestnut bangs at Kyle's front hairline. The first wavy thick almost chin length locks were sliding free, in freefall past Kyle's red and swollen eyes. He had squeezed them tightly shut at the sight of the falling locks, exhaling loudly as a sob escaped his lips.
Kyle jerked awake with a gasp. He was hyperventilating, his skin was clammy to the touch. He frantically reached up with both hands and touched his treasured mane. Slowly he began to calm down. It happened again....the nightmare, it had happened every night this week. His nightmare of sitting in barber Franks chrome and red leather barber chair. The place he'd gotten his hair cut ever since he could remember. The place he hadn't set foot in for the last 2 years. In the nightmare, Frank was in the last stages of giving him a #1 butch. His father watching gleefully as the treasured locks were severed and slid into his lap. All of his 2 years of growing it out destroyed with the hungry Osters in less than 10 minutes. Frank and his dad joking about turning Kyle back from a girl to a guy. Kyle realized that today was Friday, he'd only have to endure this nightly torture for one more night. Tomorrow was Saturday. The nightmare would then be reality.
It had all started so innocently. At the end of his sophomore year in high school, when school got out, Kyle had asked if he could now be in charge of his hair. He was 16 years old, and had summer jobs so he wasn't going to be a lay about lazy teenager for the summer. He figured he'd shoot for the moon. He asked if he could grow his hair out till he graduated from high school. He would take care of it and see that it was clean, neat, and well groomed at all times. He promised that he'd keep it neatly trimmed as it grew out, no shaggy dog look for him! To his shock both his parents, after some private discussion, agreed. With one provision...that he get a haircut for graduation. A haircut of his father's choosing. Kyle readily agreed, as most short sighted teenagers are wont to do. Dads haircut was 2 whole years away.
For the next 2 years, Kyle maintained and groomed his mane. And oh, what a mane it turned out to be. Softly wavy chestnut locks, gradually lengthening until his bangs were between his mouth and chin. The rest dangerously close to touching down on Kyle's broad shoulders. He was the envy of many of the guys at school.(and the butt of more than a few gender bending jokes too) The girls all though he looked handsome with his flowing locks.
Looking back now, the 2 years had passed by so quickly. He was now a graduating senior. Off to college in the fall. Sunday was graduation day. He had managed to talk his Mom out of reneging on their agreement when she realized that she would have a long haired Kyle in all his graduation pictures. They had been taken last fall, per school protocol. Kyle , of course was ecstatic, his treasured mane would be immortalized forever in pictures. Through all this, Kyle's dad, a state trooper, had remained neutral. This perplexed Kyle on more than one occasion. His mom would catch him fussing in the mirror over his long locks, making sure they were styled perfectly. She'd rant about his taking more time on his hair than she did on hers. His dad would catch Kyle's eye and just smile quietly. This unnerved Kyle more than his moms ranting. Why did dad just smile? It wasn't an evil smile, it wasn't a, you just wait smile, it was just a pleasant smile.
Kyle had had a haircut buddy for awhile now, his best friend Graham, or Gray as everyone called him. They'd both been growing their hair out together, and learned how to use the business end of a pair of sharp barber shears. NO clippers for these guys. Gray had Sunshine blond hair, cut in somewhat the same style as Kyle's, only his hair was mostly straight, not wavy. Gray knew of the agreement Kyle had with his parents. Gray didn't need an agreement with his, they had just let him decide about his own hair. Nothing had been said so far about the length of his mane.
Kyle had confided in Gray that the whole idea of his dad taking him tomorrow to have his graduation haircut had completely unnerved Kyle. He'd recounted his nightmare to Gray, Gray had observed that Kyle was becoming increasingly distraught as the day approached.
Earlier this week, while getting ready for a night out carousing with Gray, Kyle had caught his dad watching from the open bathroom door while he was brushing his hair and fussing about it. His dad had smiled, and walked over to Kyle. He ran his hand over the long thick locks at the back of Kyle's head. Son, His dad said, I have to give you credit. Your hair is quite something. You've managed to grow quite a mane here, he said with a smile(again that smile)he fluffed the back of Kyle's thick locks. Kyle gave a disgusted sigh. Dad, really! And quickly brushed everything back into place. His dad said, well son this weekend you graduate. On Saturday, you and I will pay a long awaited visit to Franks barbershop. As far as I know, you haven't been to see Frank at all in the last two years, correct. That would be correct Dad, Kyle said with some trepidation in his voice. Frank and I have discussed at length how you shall have you hair cut this Saturday. You remember our agreement, don't you son? Yes sir, Kyle replied dejectedly, you get to pick this haircut sir. His dads smiled again, and fluffed the thick locks at the back of Kyle's head, I hope you've enjoyed this fine mane son its very impressive, we're going to take care of it on Saturday, don't you worry. His dad turned and left the room. Seemingly taking all the air in the room with him.
Prior to his sophomore year of high school, Kyle was subjected to periodic haircuts with this dad, usually short cuts for the start of school, then again at the Christmas Holiday school break, and then the dreaded end of the school year #1 butch cut. Thinking about it, the ball dropped for Kyle and dread set in. The smile. When he went with dad for the summer butch. Dad would always stand and chat with Frank and smile at Kyle while 6 months worth of Kyle's treasured locks were unceremoniously shaved down to a #1 butch. That smile. Dad would then get his plush high pile flat top freshened up by Frank while a dejected Kyle sat and cried.
Oh, God, that smile. Kyle knew immediately what was in store for him on Saturday. He was destined for a #1 butch, his dads favorite cut for him. This couldn't be happening, not for his high school graduation. He'd be the laughing stock of his class. How could he have possibly agreed to this 2 years ago. How stupid could he be. He'd be going off to college with a grown out butch. Gray had listened to his ranting all week about this. Becoming more concerned for his friend as the week went on.
Over the years Gray had become almost like a brother to Kyle. He spent quite a bit of time at Kyle's house. Kyle's parents knew him well now and were impressed with the young man he was becoming. They were also quite impressed with their own son. He was becoming quite a young man himself. He was an honors student, captain of the Lacrosse team all through high school. Held a part time job, and had landed a significant scholarship at the college of his choice, saving he and his parents many thousands of dollars. He and Gray were attending the same college and had arranged to be roommates. Many parents had less to be thankful for than Kyle's. They also were not immune to Kyle's mounting distress this last week. He was loathe to tell them of its origins though. A deal was a deal, he couldn't renege now. His parents would lose all respect for him.
Kyle asked permissio for Gray could spent the night Friday night. Of course it was fine with his parents. He'd spent countless nights with Kyle before. Kyle's dad said sure, and he could also accompany He and Kyle on their trip to Franks Saturday morning. It looked like Gray could use a haircut too. Kyle's dad offered to call Grays dad for instructions if Gray wanted. Gray , of course had instantly turned white, all color draining from his face at the thought of cutting HIS treasured mane. Kyle interjected that Gray wasn't part of any deal that had been cut and would his dad please leave Gray out this. Gray began breathing again. Wiping small beads of sweat from his brow. Kyle's dads smiled, that smile... Come on Gray, you have to admit, you could use a trim for graduation, look sharp for your mom and dad now. Thanks sir, but I think I'll pass if it's all the same to you. Kyle had gotten up and left the room , clearly agitated.
Gray, Kyle's dad said quietly, can you tell me what's got Kyle so unhinged this week? I've never seen him so agitated and anxious. Gray sat quietly and pondered. Do I rat out my friend in hopes that his dad will go easy on him for his haircut. Selfishly Gray didn't want Kyle's treasured mane to hit the floor. He loved having his hands in the soft thick mane. Playing around with it, as Kyle did with his. Would Kyle forgive him for telling? If the tables were turned, what would Kyle do in Grays place
Decision made, Gray said, well sir, I may be way out of line here. If Kyle were to find out I said anything, I'm not sure he'd forgive me. Gray, son, I can assure you , Kyle will never know we talked son, Kyle's dad said earnestly. Well sir, he really doesn't want to go with you to Franks tomorrow sir. Getting his long hair all cut off and having a butch for graduation is causing him no end of distress. Kyle's dad was quiet. Hmm, well, his dad said, you know of our deal, right Gray? Yes sir, and I can assure you Kyle is not going to renege on that deal sir, he knows it would seriously affect you relationship if he did sir. He knows how you value integrity and follow through on commitments sir. Quite right Gray, Kyle's dad replied. I also know how both of you feel about these mops, he said, reaching over and ruffling Grays mane. Yes, yes that's true sir, Gray said back. Its only hair son, Kyle's dad said, it's really not that important in the grand scheme of things is it? I think I can answer for myself as well as Kyle sir. No, it's not THE most important thing, but right now fitting in at this particular moment in time sure feels better than standing out. With that Gray got up and went to find Kyle and settle in for a long night.
Neither Gray or Kyle got much sleep that night due to Kyle's recurring nightmare. At one point Kyle was curled up in a ball rocking inconsolably held tightly by Grays strong arms. Gray had become very concerned for his friend, he'd never seen anything like this before. They finally fell asleep in each other's arms, Kyle finally settling down. Both boys were up early, Kyle's mom was up and offered breakfast for them. Kyle couldn't eat. HIs mom was so cheerful, knowing he'd come back soon looking like her little Kyle again, he was sure of it. Gray ate a small amount, just to be polite, he also felt he was going to have to keep up his strength for what was about to happen.
Kyle's dad came into the kitchen bright eyed and smiling, that smile. Franks opens at 8:00, we want to be the first ones in boys, so let's get shakin'. Kyle dragged himself to his feet. They all marched out to Kyle's dads truck and piled in. Kyle made Gray sit next to his dad in the middle of the front seat. On the ride over, Gray realized why. Kyle was actually trembling.
When they arrived, Kyle's dad was first out of the truck, holding the door to the shop open and greeting a waiting Frank. Kyle almost couldn't make himself move to walk in. Kyle's dad patted Kyle on the back and ushered him into the shop. Been awhile hasn't it Kyle, he said, don't worry this won't take long, son.
Gray watched Kyle closely, He thought Kyle's knees were going to buckle at that remark. His dad introduced Kyle and Gray to Frank, Frank shook their hands, remembering Kyle fondly.
Frank addressed Kyle's dad directly, O.K. what are we doing today, both boys and you sir. No, no Frank, only Kyle and I, Gray is only along for moral support, right Gray? Unless you've changed you mind son. MY treat , don't worry about paying, Kyle's dad said jovially. No thanks anyway, Gray said, running his hand nervously through his thick straw colored mane. I'll just be good moral support sir, thanks.
Well Kyle, Frank said, why don't you sit right down here then and we can get started son, patting the red leather seat. Kyle walked to the chair like it was his death march. Sliding in and sitting dejectedly, awaiting his fate. Frank expertly fluffed a blue and white stripped cape around Kyle's neck, sterri stripped his neck and snapped the cape tightly. Frank and Kyle's dad were chatting pleasantly about how grown up the boys looked, how long the boys hair had gotten and that it indeed needed attention for an important event like graduation. Gray had eyes riveted on Kyle. The color was slowly draining from Kyle's face. His breathing was becoming shallow, and his eyes were getting glassy.
O.K., are we still doing what we discussed earlier? Frank asked Kyle's dad. Yes, of course, no need to change it up now Frank, I think he'll look quite handsome by the time you're finished, don't you?. Well then , let's get started Frank said almost gleefully, this won't take very long Kyle. He picked up a brush and started to brush out Kyle's impressive mane. Both boys had showered before breakfast time, but their hair was still only damp dry at this point.
Kyle, it looks like it's been quite awhile since you've last seen the inside of a barbershop if I had to guess. Frank brushed Kyle's bangs down over his face as Kyle managed to squeak out a meek , yes sir. Frank got Kyle's thick wavy chestnut locks all brushed down, the sides and back almost touching his shoulders, bangs just about to his chin. Looks like you prefer to part it on the right, yes? Kyle gave a slight nod. Alright Kyle, Frank cooed, we're going to start in the back, you really need to have that neck cleaned up. Frank grabbed what Kyle was certain were the fast feed Osters, off their hook from the row hanging from the shelf behind the chair. He gently pushed Kyle's head down, slipping his hand up under the thick bulk hanging off Kyle's nape, brushing it aside, exposing Kyle's nape. The clippers clacked to life and touched down low on his neck, starting their ascent .
As those clippers clacked to life, Grays eyes were riveted on Kyle's head. He'd already noticed the rigid posture, and vise like grip on the chair arms. He knew Kyle well enough that he saw some of the color drain from Kyle's face as Frank had brushed the long fringe down. As he watched franks hand disappear into the thick mane at Kyle's nape, he almost audibly moaned. He knew exactly how that thick mane felt when you ran your hands through it and let the locks slip between your fingers. It was divine. And to think that for the foreseeable future , there wouldn't be anything to run his hands through, let alone trim up, made Gray a bit envious of Frank. He wanted to shout STOP, that's my job! Gray wanted to be the one to clipper Kyle down, if anyone had to it, it should be me, he thought. He'd never voiced his desire to Kyle though. He couldn't let Kyle know how possessive he really felt about him. Gray watched, holding his breath, anticipating sheaves of Kyle's thick chestnut mane to slowly cascade down and slide into Kyle's lap as Frank's hungry clippers made their way up the back of Kyle's head. He was also expecting Kyle to totally freak out as the first thick locks hit his lap. What followed was even more unimaginable.
As the clippers touched down on his neck, Kyle felt himself disconnecting, disassociating. The clipper noise faded away. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Tears started silently leaking out of their corners. No one could see because his bangs covered his face. He had a death grip on the leather pads of the barber chair. He was singularly focused on the fact that his dad was having him shaved down to a butch, for his high school graduation. His nightmare was coming true. His whole body began to involuntarily tremble , ever so slightly. He could no longer hear the chatter between Frank and his dad, nor could he feel the clippers at his nape anymore either. It was like he was submerged under water. Time seemed to stop. At some point he became dimly aware of his head being moved around gently from time to time. After what could have been 10 minutes or 2 hours, he felt something tickle his nose. In his dreamlike state it could only be his treasured bangs sliding down as the hungry clippers severed them from the top of his head. This was where the night mare had ended before, not so today, his worst nightmare was becoming a reality. The realization brought him around somewhat. He emitted a low sob.
Frank was finished with the final trimming of the back and sides and layering as instructed by Kyle's dad. The last thing Frank had to finish was trimming and layering Kyle's long thick bangs. As he made the final snips, he paused in his chatter with Gray and Kyle's dad. He brushed the long thick fringe to the side, revealing for the first time Kyle's tightly shut and tear stained grimacing face, jaw tightly clenched. It was then that Frank noticed too the death grip Kyle had on the chair arms. Frank reached out and tapped Kyle's dad on the shoulder and motioned to Kyle's face. Gray had already seen and fully understood where Kyle was mentally at that moment. Gray himself was still in shock over what had just transpired. Gray wanted to shake Kyle, and pull him back to a completely different reality. Kyle's dad took in his sons composure, or lack of it, and was stunned. He reached out and shook Kyle by the shoulders. Kyle, son, look at me, he intoned. Kyle didn't respond at first. Gradually the sobbing abated. Kyle, please look at me son, open your eyes, what is wrong. Kyle's eyes popped open, momentarily flashing fire. What's wrong, what's wrong, he moaned, really dad, what's wrong? It's the day before my high school graduation and you've brought me in to get a butch cut as payback for letting me grow my hair out all this time. I can't help it, I know I agreed to your choice of cuts but, I don't think I can walk across the stage tomorrow looking like this sir, I'm sorry to disappoint you. The sobbing commenced again in earnest.
Frank, Gray, and Kyle's dad all looked at one another in confusion. Frank turned the chair towards the big antique framed mirror along the wall. Kyle's dad touched Kyle's shoulder, son, open your eyes please. No, I can't look at that skinned head again, I hated it when I was younger and it'll be even worse now. Kyle, son just open your eyes please, his dad said, it's not like that at all. Gray stepped forward at this point. Kyle, dude, open 'em man. It's O.K. Ha, ha, Gray, right. Nice try. Will you stop it and just open your firkin eyes man, sorry sirs, Gray said. Kyle's eyes slowly opened. As they focused on his reflection in the mirror, they began to open wide. He looked from Gray, to his dad, to Frank. He unclenched the chair arms and brought his hands up to his head. Gingerly touching his almost chin length bangs. They were still there, almost all of his hair was still there. He looked down into his lap, there was a small handful of hair resting there. He gazed intently into the mirror, turning his head from side to side. Not only was most of his hair still there, it looked great. Better than Gray usually did it when they trimmed each other's hair. Frank had evened it up on the sides and back, shortening it slightly in the process. He now had layers cut into the bottom so it didn't curl outward anymore either. Frank had shaved his neck, and trimmed his sideburns and around his ears slightly too. It looked great, he had to admit.
But I don't understand, Kyle started to say, is this some kind a cruel joke, looking perplexedly at his dad. Is Frank going to take the clippers to me now? Kyle's dad looked at Frank and said, Frank, can you give me a minute alone with Kyle, forgetting that Gray was standing off to the other side. Sure, Frank nodded and disappeared into the back of the shop. He had opened an hour early at Kyle's dads request so there wouldn't be anyone else in the shop.
Kyle's dad said, Kyle, I'm not sure why you thought I was going to bring you in and have you get the kids butch cut you used to get? I never said I was going to do that to you did I? NO sir, but the way you've been looking at me all week, after you said we were coming here today....You've had that same smile you used to have when you'd bring me in for those awful shearings. His dad said, son, I'm sorry you thought that's what you were going to get. I had no idea you'd be getting this worked up over it either. Kyle looked at him and said, you have no idea how wound up I'd been dad. His dad frowned, well, I think I have an idea now, from the face you had when Frank brushed you bangs back.
His dad began to explain, my smile has in fact been an admiring and appreciative one. You've done a fantastic job maintaining your hair for the past two years, Truth told, I'm jealous. He pointed to his own plush flat top haircut saying, I have to have this short cut because of my job son, not because I want one. If you've been thinking I'm fond of flat tops and buzz cuts, think again, I'd actually rather have this he said, gingerly ruffling Kyle's mane. You've turned into a very handsome young man. The hair, I'll admit, has been your choice, not mine, and will continue to be your choice. I gave Frank instructions earlier to just give you a trim to make it nice and neat for tomorrow. Your mom and I want you to look your best, yes, but we want you to be comfortable with how you look too. You do have to admit, you were getting a bit shaggy. I was young once too you know. I know a thing or two about unwanted haircuts he said , pointing to his own hair. I'd much prefer something longer and stylish, maybe not as long as what you two have though. Now, Kyle's dad said, I think Frank did a great job. I had to hold him back a bit, he really wanted to take more off than this. I think he did a nice job, but it's your hair. What do you think son, Is it O.K., his dad asked. Kyle studied himself again in the mirror. His dad went into the back of the shop to retrieve Frank. Gray leaned in and said, dude, you look hot man, I couldn't have done it this good. I did pick up a few tips watching Frank though. Gray smiled warmly at Kyle. I'll be able to keep this up while we're away at college this year, roomie. I can't wait.
When Frank returned, Kyle looked at him apologetically and said, thank you Frank, this looks great, really, it does. Frank smiled, and said, thank you, can I finish you up now. Kyle laughed, and said yes, I guess so. He suddenly got a panic stricken look on his face. You aren't cutting much more off though, are you? Frank sighed and said, sadly no, casting a sideways glance at Kyle's dad. All three of them laughed at the remark. Finally lightening the mood a bit. NO, I'm finished with the scissors, and the clippers too. Now we just have to style it a little for you. He brushed out Kyle's newly trimmed mane, showing him how it was now cut so that he could part it anywhere, right, left or center, the way it had been cut. Kyle Glanced and Gray , who smile knowingly back. Frank grabbed the tub of matte clay, took a small dab, warming it between his hands, and gently and thoroughly worked it through Kyle's plush locks. Kyle closed his eyes, he loved the feel of someone else's hands in his hair, even if they weren't Grays. Frank took the brush, and showed Kyle a couple of different ways to style it so it wasn't just a long thick mop. He uncapped Kyle, brushing him down, and declared him done. Kyle stood up and gently touched his mane, wow, what a feeling, he thought. NO butch cut. Relief flooded over him suddenly. He smiled to himself. He walked over to his dad and gave him a huge hug. Thank you dad, for understanding, I guess I misjudged you. I know you don't necessarily like it this long, but thank you for respecting me enough to let me keep it. His dad smiled again, that smile.
Frank meanwhile walked over to Gray, and said, well son, as I've demonstrated, pointing to Kyle's hair, I can give an outstanding trim if you want one. The offers still open, and Kyle's dad will pay. We can have you looking just as sharp as Kyle for graduation tomorrow. Gray looked questioningly at Kyle, who nodded in the affirmative. Gray then looked over at Kyle's dad, still O.K. sir? Of course , Gray , my treat. Gray slid into the big red leather and chrome chair. Smiled at Kyle and said, can you cut it just like his sir. Kyle's dad smiled, that smile.